Flush with wins, finally COVID-free, Biden to hit the road ahead of U.S. midterms

KIAWAH ISLAND, S.C., Aug 11 (Reuters) - President Joe Biden plans to travel across the United States in the coming weeks to tout a series of legislative wins on climate change, gun control and drug pricing in a bid to boost his party's chances in the looming midterm elections, White House officials said on Thursday.

His Democrats face an uphill battle to retain their narrow control of the House of Representatives and Senate in the Nov. 8 elections. Biden, whose public approval rating rose this week to its highest since early June, plans to use the recent victories in Congress to rally support for Democratic candidates, White House officials Kate Bedingfield and Anita Dunn wrote in a memo distributed to allies in the party and shared with reporters.

They did not specify where Biden would travel, but he is expected in states with hotly contested races including Pennsylvania, Ohio and North Carolina.

The White House in the past has promised other media blitzes as Biden's team sought to highlight last year's COVID-19 economic stimulus package, push for infrastructure and other domestic spending plans and convince Americans that the economy was on the right track. read more

Critics inside the Democratic Party have said those efforts fell short or were sidelined by other events.

"The White House has an impressive track record, but unfortunately many Americans don't know about it - and that's a problem," said a senior Democratic official, speaking on condition of anonymity.

Republicans are hoping to ride voter discontent with inflation to victory in November, and they have history on their side. Usually the party that controls the White House loses seats in Congress in the first midterm elections after a presidential election, like this one.

Political analysts have said Republicans are poised to win a majority in the House, but the race for control of the Senate appears much closer. Republican control of one or both chambers could thwart much of Biden's legislative agenda for the second half of his four-year term.

U.S. President Joe Biden walks from Air Force One as he arrives at Joint Base Charleston in South Carolina, U.S., August 10, 2022. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

Democratic victories in recent weeks on major legislative priorities, as well as falling gasoline prices and tempered inflation, have given Biden and his team hope that voters will not turn their backs on the party in November.

"I think people are going to be taking a measure of it in real time," said a senior White House official, briefing reporters on condition of anonymity during a conference call, referring to the choice between Republicans and Democrats in November. "I just don't see these things as frozen in time."

Biden spent more than two weeks isolated in the White House after two bouts with COVID-19, and is taking a vacation this week in Kiawah Island, South Carolina.

The Senate this week approved a Biden-backed measure to fight climate change, lower drug prices and raise some corporate taxes. The bill, known as the Inflation Reduction Act, is expected to win House approval on Friday. read more

After signing the measure into law, Biden, Vice President Kamala Harris and Cabinet officials plans to tell Americans throughout the month of August: "The president and congressional Democrats beat the special interests and delivered what was best for the American people," according to the memo.

"Every step of the way, Congressional Republicans sided with the special interests - pushing an extreme MAGA agenda that costs families," it said, referring to former President Donald Trump's "Make America Great Again" slogan.

Republicans and Democrats traditionally receive millions of dollars in campaign donations from special interest groups each election cycle.

Republican leaders have criticized the $430 billion Inflation Reduction Act, saying it could undermine growth at a time when the economy is in danger of slipping into recession, and were united in opposition in the Senate vote. read more

Reporting by Jarrett Renshaw; Additional reporting by Steve Holland; Writing by Rami Ayyub and Steve Holland; Editing by Will Dunham, Frances Kerry and Heather Timmons

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